Useful Advice for Parents
Written by Gavin on 23rd December 2016
When a child is unwell it is normal for any parent to feel worried or concerned and want to get their child checked over by a health professional. However, there are some circumstances where your child does not need to attend the emergency unit or out of hours to seek advice.
Many conditions can be dealt with through self care and rest at home, a trip to your local pharmacy or an appointment with your GP.
During Christmas and New Year when in hours services are closed on bank holidays parents may feel more inclined to turn up at the emergency unit. However, if your child is suffering any of the following conditions they would not need to come into hospital and can be cared for at home, saving time and resources.
Jeff Morgan, Consultant in Paediatric Emergency Medicine at University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff gives advice for the most common conditions children are brought to hospital for when they could have been seen elsewhere.
Chickenpox is a mild and common childhood illness that most children catch at some point. It involves spots which can be itchy and a fever. There is no specific treatment for chickenpox so a trip to the Emergency Unit or your GP is not needed. You can get paracetamol and calamine lotion from the pharmacist which can help with symptoms. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water and remains home from school until the spots have dried up.
Diarrhoea and vomiting
Diarrhoea and vomiting is common in young children but most cases clear up after a few days without treatment and can be looked after safely at home. In children, diarrhoea usually improves within two to four days, although some infections can last a week or more. Make sure your child drinks plenty of water to keep them hydrated.
It is important to encourage good basic hygiene to prevent the infection spreading by washing and drying hands frequently.
A visit to the Emergency Unit would only need to be considered if your child is severely dehydrated.
Earache is a common problem in children and is usually only caused by a minor infection and will often get better in a few days without treatment. You can use over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat the pain. Placing a warm flannel against the affected ear may also help relieve the pain.
A cough is usually a viral infection that does not need medical attention. Make sure your child has plenty of rest, drinks plenty of fluids, and take paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve pain.
Your child would only need to see your GP if they develop shortness of breath, breathing difficulties or skin changes colour, their cough is particularly severe or is getting worse or they are struggling to drink fluids.
A runny nose would usually be a symptom of a cold. There’s no cure for a cold, but you can look after your child at home by making sure they rest and drink plenty of fluids in small, regular volumes and give them paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce discomfort.
High temperatures are usually a sign of infection in the body caused by a virus and sometimes by bacteria. Viral infections are far more common and do not need antibiotics. Only bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics.
There are many myths about high temperatures and in fact it is the body’s immune system fighting off the infection. Your child’s temperature will return to normal when the infection has completely gone. You can treat your child by making them more comfortable, giving them plenty of water to drink and paracetamol if the fever is making your child miserable.
Childhood rashes are very common and are often nothing to worry about. Most rashes are harmless and go away on their own. However, if your child has developed a rash and seems unwell, or if you’re worried, you should see your GP to find out the cause and for any necessary treatment.
Minor head injuries without loss of consciousness or open wound
Minor head injuries often cause a bump or bruise. As long as the child is awake (conscious) and with no deep cuts, it’s unlikely there will be any serious damage.
If your child experiences a knock, bump or blow to the head, sit them down, comfort them, and make sure they rest. You can hold a cold compress to their head – try a bag of ice or frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel.
If your child has sustained a head injury, observe them closely for 24 hours to monitor whether their symptoms change or get worse.
If your child has a toothache for longer than one or two days, you should visit your dentist as soon as possible to have it treated. Paracetamol and ibuprofen may help to reduce pain and discomfort while you are waiting for an appointment.
Constipation is common in childhood, particularly when children are being potty trained at around two to three years old. Your child may be constipated because they are not drinking enough or have problems potty (or toilet) training.
Take your child to the GP if you think they may be constipated. The longer your child is constipated, the more difficult it can be for them to get back to normal, so make sure you get help early.
If you are concerned about any illnesses in your child you can call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or visit their website for advice.